MUMBAI: With two days to go for Diwali and the ban on firecrackers amid the pandemic, markets across India are selling an oxymoron: 'green' crackers, most of which are said to cause around 30 per cent less pollution than the average cracker. Samples of such 'green' crackers tested by the NGO Awaaz Foundation have revealed that most of these 'green' crackers contain hazardous chemicals banned by the Supreme Court.
Convener of Awaaz Foundation Sumaira Abdulali has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Minister of Environment Prakash Javadekar and Chief Minister of Maharashtra Uddhav Thackeray, seeking a complete ban on the sale and lighting of fireworks, including the 'green' crackers.
In all, 12 samples of different firecrackers available in the market were analysed for their content, with respect to harmful emissions after use. All ‘green' crackers’ (including those allegedly bearing the ‘green cracker’ stamp of NEERI,which had developed barium-free formulations), contain hazardous and banned chemicals, including barium nitrate, banned by the Supreme Court in October 2018, and also potassium nitrate and sulphur.
Scientists at the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSRI) NEERI, had developed formulations to make firecrackers that reduce air pollution by 30-40 per cent -- green crackers.
Abdulali said, "It is truly shocking that the test results of ‘green’ crackers (which children are encouraged to use) are further validated by the open display of their banned chemical content on their packaging. Such crackers, causing serious illnesses including respiratory illness, worsening the effects of Covid-19, are unsuitable for use, especially by children and sufferers of respiratory illnesses such as Covid-19. They also violate the October 2016 order of the Supreme Court."
She added, "This year, more than ever, official chemical testing and noise testing for firecrackers is essential to determine the appropriateness of firecracker sale and use in Mumbai and other parts of Maharashtra. The Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) had tested the chemical content of firecrackers in 2015, yet these results have not been made public. We request the government to direct the MPCB to release the results of its earlier chemical tests specifically for hazardous and banned chemicals and to conduct an official test urgently to determine the chemical composition of crackers which the Government of Maharashtra has permitted for sale and /or use."
According to Abdulali, packages of seven of the 12 samples of firecrackers tested and analysed by the NGO, bore a NEERI stamp. While 10 packages bore a description of their chemical composition, two had not.
Abdulali said, "I have requested the government of Maharashtra to impose a complete ban within Mumbai and Maharashtra for the distribution, sale and use of all firecrackers including the so-called ‘green' crackers, which contain dangerous toxins."